Back Pain in School Kids Who Use Backpacks

Backpack pain is a common condition of school-age children.  While back pain is a known and widely-studied issue in adults, its importance in school children has received very little attention. Elementary, middle, and high school students must often carry backpacks that weigh enough to cause chronic back pain, poor posture, and even decreased lung volume.

Are Backpacks Too Heavy for Kids?

Recent research supports that children carrying backpack loads of more than ten percent of their body weight have a greater risk of developing back pain and related issues. An international study found that an alarmingly large proportion of school-aged children in Australia, France, Italy, and the United States regularly carried backpacks weighing more than the ten percent threshold.

Girls who carried purses in addition to wearing a backpack reported significantly greater back pain. Adolescents with back pain spent more time watching television than their peers. Over 80 percent of those surveyed believed that carrying a heavy backpack caused their back pain.

Backpack Pain Solutions

The best way to prevent back pain is to avoid carrying heavy loads.

Children should take advantage of locker breaks and only carry items necessary for a couple of classes at a time. When lifting a backpack, children should crouch down and bend their knees rather than curve the spine.

Here are some safe backpack etiquette tips:

  • Children should avoid carrying over 10 percent of their body weight in their backpack.
  • Place the heaviest objects at the back of the pack.
  • Make sure the items fit as snugly as possible to minimize back pain due to shifting weight.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so they fit snugly over your child’s shoulders and the backpack doesn’t drag your child backward.
  • Children should avoid carrying backpacks slung over one shoulder, as it can cause spinal pain and general discomfort.
  • Encourage your child to carry only necessary items in their backpack. Additional items can be carried in hand.
  • Look for backpacks with helpful features such as multiple compartments for even weight distribution, padded straps to protect the shoulders and neck, and waist belt.
  • If your child’s school allows, consider a rollerpack, which rolls across the floor like a suitcase.
  • If problems continue, talk to your child’s teacher or principal about implementing paperback textbooks, lighter materials, or digital versions.
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